Wireless mesh networking is an emerging technology for future broadband wireless access. The ad hoc manner of wireless mesh networks (WMNs) determines that distributed medium access control (MAC) protocols are desired. Multimedia traffic with heterogeneous quality of service (QoS) requirements is expected to be supported in small-, medium-, and large-scale WMNs. Wireless mesh routers in WMNs are located in fixed sites with low (or no) mobility and no power constraints, thus comprising a robust and reliable wireless mesh backbone. Different networking characteristics between the mesh backbone and various mesh client networks give rise to the demand of heterogeneous MAC design. Due to new design purposes and new networking structures, existing MAC protocols designed for mobile ad hoc networks may not be effective or efficient for multi-purpose WMNs. This paper provides an overview of distributed MAC protocols based on their underlying design objectives and methodology, discusses their features and suitability for WMNs, and identifies potential challenges and open research issues. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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